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Shostakovich Violin Concertos 1 & 2 Review

Album. Released 2006.  

BBC Review

Daniel Hope performs Shostakovich's two violin concertos with integrity and...

Andrew McGregor 2006

Shostakovich's centenary seems to be an opportunity few fine fiddle players are resisting, if they haven't already recorded one or both of his concertos.

Shostakovich's Second Violin Concerto was written for a birthday, the great Soviet violinist David Oistrakh's 60th. But anniversary celebrations couldn't be further from this troubled sound-world. Almost 20 years on from the First Concerto, this is Shostakovich post-heart attack, with his compositions sometimes obsessed with his own mortality; spare, stark textures, startling outbursts, and a kind of painful lyricism in the solo part...genuinely unsettling.

The British violinist Daniel Hope has the measure of the darkness at the heart of this concerto, and his playing is almost conversational...just listen to the cadenza in the finale to hear how effectively he's able to communicate: it's almost like listening to speech. A major part of this concerto is the exposed horn part, very well performed here, and Maxim Shostakovich guides the players of the BBC Symphony Orchestra through his father's concerto with understanding, and respect.

The integrity and introverted intensity of the reading makes this a special performance for me. The First Concerto gets a similarly intelligent and rugged performance from Hope, without the super-shiny brilliance of a Vengerov, or Sarah Chang in her very impressive new recording...which you may prefer in the First Concerto, with its more extrovert soloistic personality.

Yet Hope still finds his own thoughtful way through it in a performance that's more gritty, and very satisfying. The Romance from 'The Gadfly' is the bonus, and its romantic warmth comes as a shock after Shostakovich has so bleakly bared his soul.

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